Wednesday was a rare good day in the Russia scandal.
A rare good day is not when yet another tentacle in this vast and multifarious outrage with its Dostoevsky-esque cast of deplorables is revealed, something that has occurred with mind-numbing regularity since we first hazarded a glimpse at Russia's vast cyber-operation to deny the presidency to Hillary Clinton at the height of the 2016 campaign and the first hints that the Donald Trump campaign might have aided and abetted in this enormous crime.
That actually is a bad day because of the probability that nothing will come of the revelation. That it will get tossed on the slag heap of Too Much Stuff To Keep Track Of.
If you think of the Russia scandal in terms of a deck of playing cards with Trump as the ace of spades and George Papadopoulos as the two of clubs, then Wednesday was a rare good day. This is because a pretty important card -- we'll call former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort the king of spades in the spirit of our little exercise -- was taken off the table.
Wednesday also was a rare good day because Manafort, in addition to being sentenced to 7½ years in a federal slammer, was the target of a 16-count indictment for additional crimes returned by a Manhattan grand jury. Even if Trump pardons him on the federal raps, he would not be able to pardon him on the state charges if he is found guilty.
It also was a rare good day because two stories seemingly destined for the slag heap reached critical mass.
This was news that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker did indeed acknowledge at a closed congressional hearing that he had talked to Trump about the scandal in general and Trump consigliere Michael Cohen in particular after denying that any such thing happened. And news that Cohen was told before he coped a plea that he could be sure "he had friends in high places" if he stayed loyal to the godfather with the small hands and peculiar hair, which was a presidential pardon dangle for sure.
Even when we consider other cards taken off the table because of plea agreements -- we'll call Cohen the king of hearts, Mike Flynn the king of diamonds and Rick Gates the jack of spades -- that still leaves 48 cards. (You didn't ask, but Ivanka Trump is the queen of spades and Roger Stone is a joker.)
If that isn't sobering in the context of the enormity of the scandal -- Watergate, the Teapot Dome and Soviet theft of atomic bomb secrets are mere also rans when compared to this unprecedented assault on the bedrock of American democracy -- there is the real possibility that a president who sold out America's interests to its greatest enemy will never see the inside of a prison cell, may not be impeached, and even when the full weight of the scandal crashes down on him will cut a deal allowing him to escape Washington for his gilded Fifth Avenue penthouse in the sky with nary a scratch.
It is encouraging that the day after that rare good day the House passed a resolution by a robust 420-0 vote calling for the release of Special Council Robert Mueller's so-called final report and that a huge majority of Democratic and Republican voters concurred in recent polls. (There were two other non-binding bipartisan rebukes as the week wound down, resolutions blocking Trump's phony border wall national emergency and ending military aid for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen over the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.)
But we have a problem, Houston: The view of some Democratic pols that impeaching the ace of spades would tear the country apart because, in the opinion of Trump's crybaby chorus, impeachment is political (!!!) and therefore illegitimate.
The view of these pols is not just naïve and shortsighted. They have it exactly backwards.
Trump already has torn the country apart. Impeachment, even if it ultimately does not result in conviction after a Senate trial because of the Republican majority, would have profound healing effect for the majority of Americans who have lived in fear since Vladimir Putin coronated the 45th president of the United States while we were looking the other way.
In any event, Trump keeps making clear that if he goes, it won't be quietly.
"I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people," he declared, lest the message that he encourages violence be lost. "But they don’t play it tough -- until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."
Yes, the ace of spades is willing to use the police and military, not to mention smelly guys humping Harleys, against his political opposition. That would not be a rare good day.
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